The Bogburn is quickly becoming one of my favorite races. This year’s event took place in near perfect conditions. Fresh snow. Good trail coverage. Temperatures never got above the mid-20’s, keeping the waxing situation klister-free. The more familiar I become with the tight, highly technical course, the more I enjoy it.
We were only the road at 6:30 AM so we could make the Bill Koch race with the kids. Then we hung around a few hours unitl the 1:30 start of the men’s race. I was ready to go home after the kids had raced. But I filled the down time eating and sitting by the wood burning stove inside of Bogburn Hall, until it was time to start preparing the skis.
There had been much debate about the wax selection. There always is. I had skied the course in the morning with Swix VR40 which had worked fine. There was plenty of slipping, but it was all coming from the soft, unconsolidated snow. The kick zone was working properly. But throughout the day, the temperature had climbed and everybody started talking about warmer waxes. I ended going with Swix VR 45 with a sub-layer of VR 50. In warm up, it was grabby. Maybe I had put on too much or had waxed too warm. I hoped it would ski in.
I feel more than a few times during warm up. The glide zones of my skis were super fast and every time I got back on my skis they slid out from underneath me and I would lose control and end up in the woods. One fall tweaked my back a little. I hoped that I had all the crashes out of the way.
The Bogburn is an interval start and I had gotten stuck with a late starting time. There would be a lot of traffic in front of me on the course as they tended to start the faster skiers earlier. It was a mixed blessing for me. Ten minutes before my start time, my stomach started cramping up. I sprinted to the port-o-potty and quickly took care of business. Just in time, I got to the start.
The guy in front of me looked at me and said, “You have to give me at least to the top of the first hill before you pass me.”
I could only promise him the 15 seconds he would get from the interval start.
I would catch and pass him at the top of the first hill. I had to pass another dozen skiers the first half of the first lap. On a single set of classic tracks, the passing was a little tricky. I’d yell, “Track!” as I was coming through and most of the time the skier would step to the side right away. Sometimes I had to yell a couple of times. Sometimes there was a stray pole or ski tip lingering on the track. It slowed me down a little each time and forced me to take some awkward lines. I overshot one corner and got my ski stuck in the deep snow and it took a good 10 or 15 seconds to get it out.
On a descent, I marked the skier in front of me who was proceeding way too cautiously. I could tell almost immediately that he was going to go down. When he did, I went wide to get around him and into the deep snow and ended up face-planting myself. Lost another 20 seconds there.
Otherwise, I was handling the all of the technical turns and descents really well, better than I ever had before. I was thinking of the advice Frank had given me: “Just follow the skis. They know where to go.” I also had changed my attitude. Falling would no longer be an option. Things started to click. Instead of holding back, I attacked the winding descents. I stayed on top of my skis and did fast step turns through the really tight turns. I was able to carry more speed through the dowhills. I was getting through turns where the heavy snow had been pushed clear and piled deep, where it was hard to see the ruts and hard patches in the flat, fading light, where I normally would have crashed or gone off the course.
The uphills were mixed. The steeps had been churned into a thick mashed potato of loose snow so I couldn’t use my newfound striding skill. On the less steep sections, I was striding well, but my lower back was tight from the earlier falls and I was having trouble getting full power. Plus, my kick wax was grabbing. I could tell it was icing up a bit, and wouldn’t release the snow and that was not only slowing me down, but was throwing off my rhythm. Despite the wax, I was skiing fast and comfortably and completed the second lap without any difficulties.
As I came into the finish, my 10 year old son was on the side of the trail cheering me on. I sprinted up and over the final hill to stop the clock at 49:20. I felt good. I still felt fresh. I’ve rarely finished a race where I didn’t feel I could have gone a little bit faster.
I would end up finishing 15th overall, a big improvement over last year where I had a similar position but with less competition and much further behind the winning time. I spent 75% of the elapsed time at 90-100% of my maximum heart rate. I maybe could have gone a little faster, but not much.